Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, February 24, 2017

Todd Mason will be the host for today and next Friday as we take a break here. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fifty Years Ago: 1967 Oscars

Always interesting to see which Oscar winners have stood the test of time. A Man for all Seasons is such a typical Hollywood Oscar winner. But who remembers it today? Actor: I would have voted for Michael Caine or Richard Burton. Supporting Actor: Matthau is as good a choice as any.  Actress: Taylor was pretty good here. Sandy Dennis was perfect in her role. Mike Nichols got robbed. Interesting at this point in time they had categories for black and white and color films for categories like cinematography. 1966 was not a particularly strong year, was it? I think we have much better films this year than that one. Unless there are gems not on here.



Paul Scofield

A Man for All Seasons


Alan Arkin

The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming

Richard Burton

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Michael Caine


Steve McQueen

The Sand Pebbles

Actor in a Supporting Role


Walter Matthau

The Fortune Cookie



The Sand Pebbles

James Mason

Georgy Girl

George Segal

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Robert Shaw

A Man for All Seasons



Elizabeth Taylor

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


Anouk Aimee

A Man and a Woman

Ida Kaminska

The Shop on Main Street

Lynn Redgrave

Georgy Girl

Vanessa Redgrave


Actress in a Supporting Role


Sandy Dennis

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


Wendy Hiller

A Man for All Seasons

Jocelyne Lagarde


Vivien Merchant


Geraldine Page

You're a Big Boy Now



A Man for All Seasons

Fred Zinnemann



Michelangelo Antonioni

A Man and a Woman

Claude Lelouch

The Professionals

Richard Brooks

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Mike Nichols
Foreign Language Film


A Man and a Woman



The Battle of Algiers


Loves of a Blonde






Music (Original Music Score)


Born Free

John Barry


The Bible

Toshiro Mayuzumi


Elmer Bernstein

The Sand Pebbles

Jerry Goldsmith

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Alex North

Music (Scoring of Music--adaptation or treatment)


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Ken Thorne


The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Luis Enrique Bacalov

Return of the Seven

Elmer Bernstein

The Singing Nun

Harry Sukman

Stop the World--I Want to Get Off

Al Ham

Music (Song)


Born Free

Born Free in "Born Free" Music by John Barry; Lyrics by Don Black



Alfie in "Alfie" Music by Burt Bacharach; Lyrics by Hal David

Georgy Girl

Georgy Girl in "Georgy Girl" Music by Tom Springfield; Lyrics by Jim Dale


My Wishing Doll in "Hawaii" Music by Elmer Bernstein; Lyrics by Mack David

An American Dream

A Time For Love in "An American Dream" Music by Johnny Mandel; Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster

Best Picture


A Man for All Seasons

Fred Zinnemann, Producer



Lewis Gilbert, Producer

The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming

Norman Jewison, Producer

The Sand Pebbles

Robert Wise, Producer

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Ernest Lehman, Producer

Writing (Screenplay--based on material from another medium)


A Man for All Seasons

Robert Bolt



Bill Naughton

The Professionals

Richard Brooks

The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming

William Rose

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Ernest Lehman

Writing (Story and Screenplay--written directly for the screen)


A Man and a Woman

Story by Claude Lelouch; Screenplay by Claude Lelouch, Pierre Uytterhoeven



Story by Michelangelo Antonioni; Screenplay by Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, Edward Bond

The Fortune Cookie

Billy Wilder, I. A. L. Diamond


Robert Ardrey

The Naked Prey

Clint Johnston, Don Peters

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award


George Bagnall

Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award


Robert Wise

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Okay, this is the show I watch if I need some comfort TV. Or even if I don't. And if I had to pick a favorite episode I would pick the first one because it introduced almost all of the important players and it also introduced a style of dialog that was different from other TV shows. It must have taken some searching to find two actresses who could fire off these sentences as well as these two.

In this episode, we learn that Rory wants to go to a school that will help her fulfill her dream to go to Harvard and that means hitting up her estranged grandparents for tuition. Never too saccharine, never too dark, the perfect tonic for our times. Looking at the update this year was a bit troubling though. Somehow their habit of mocking everyone grew tiresome. So I will stick with the originals.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Things That Made Me Happy

THE SALESMAN is a terrific Iranian film by the director who made THE SEPARATION and ELLE.
It had a big twist 2/3 of the way through which should entice genre lovers. So happy to have access to foreign films.

Tai Chi which I am absolutely rotten at but it makes my back feel great. And love the women who struggle through it with me: Lainie, Suzie, Betty, Mary Ellen.

Yonana is my new machine that makes a delicious sorbet- like dessert using only frozen fruit. The magic is in the frozen but ripe bananas It is easy and only has the calories of whatever fruit you choose.

ABSTRACT is a new show on Netflix, which highlight artists across fields who create amazing art including shoes!

Ann Patchett has always been a favorite of mine since BEL CANTO. This is her latest, which I am enjoying.

So happy to open the windows today. I know it is a sign of just how horrible the climate is but....

Friday, February 17, 2017

Troublesome/Evil Children Day on FFB

On the theme of evil children, my idea was to review THE BAD SEED, which I bought. But my terror of the story, based on the Patty McCormack movie, gave me a nightmare the first night. So I read THE EVIL FRIENDSHIP instead. Thanks to those who took the time to see out an evil child.

Here are some of the evil children we may have overlooked.

THE EVIL FRIENDSHIP, Vin Packer (reviewed by Patti Abbott)

This novel is based on the Parker-Hulme case in Australia in the sixties. There has been a movie (HEAVENLY CREATURES) and a non-fiction book and lots and lots of discussion about it over the years.

Two girls, given to flights of fancy and a budding lesbian relationship, kill a mother that gets in their way.

When one of the girls' mother decides to take her to America after the breakup of her marriage, the two hatch a plot that she will instead stay at her friend's house. When this doesn't work out, the two girls murder the recalcitrant mother that won't fall in with their plan.

This novel excels at creating the atmosphere of a school where close relationships are the norm. It also excels at showing how lonely girls could perhaps drift into a relationship that was not mutually desired. They bond over their fear and.mistrust of men, parents, and school mates. Their parents relief that they have found a friend allows them to overlook the sinister nature of the relationship. I am not talking about its lesbian aspect but rather the unleashing of a murderous plot.

The movie is able to romanticize these events a lot more than the book. It is a sad little story indeed.

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for sending this book my way.

Bill Crider, ELEGY BEACH, Stephen Boyett
Jerry House, BAD RONALD, John Holbrook Vance
George Kelley, KING LEAR, William Shakespeare
B.V. Lawson, DEATH OF A MYSTERY WRITER, Robert Barnard
Todd Mason, THE LITTLE MONSTERS et seq. edited by Roger Elwood and/or Vic Ghidalia; stories by Jerome Bixby, Kit Reed, Damon Knight, "Matthew Gant" (Arnold Hano) and C. M. Kornbluth
J.F. Norris, THE SECRET KEEPER, Shirley Escapa
 James Reasoner, THE TWISTED THING, Mickey Spillane
TracyK, MILDRED PIERCE, James M. Cain

Sergio Angelini, PAINKILLER,  N.J. Fountain
Mark Baker, TRUNK MUSIC, Michael Connelly
Yvette Banek, SMALLBONE DECEASED, Michael Gilbert
Les Blatt, HALLOWEEN PARTY, Agatha Christie
Elgin Bleecker, DEATH WISH, Brian Garfield
Brian Busby, Helen Duncan
Martin Edwards, SOMEBODY AT THE DOOR, Raymond Postgate
Richard Horton, THE HELMUT OF NAVARRE, Bertha Runkle
Nick Jones, David Mazzucchelli
Margot Kinberg, THE HIDDEN MAN, Robin Blake
Evan Lewis, SHADOW COMICS 64-66
Steve Lewis, THE POISONERS, Donald Hamilton
THE RAP SHEET, Steven Nester, ANGELS, Denis Johnson
Kerrie Smith, WHAT REMAINS BEHIND, Dorothy Fowler
TomCat, DEATH AT THE DOG, Joanna Cannan

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Town Detroit

The Lone Ranger debuted on the evening of Jan. 30, 1933, live from Detroit's WXYZ studios in the Maccabees Building (now a Wayne State University office building) on Woodward and Putnam. The show’s exact origins have been the source of eternal debate. However, it’s safe to say that the principal creators were station owner George W. Trendle, who had made his money managing local vaudeville houses and movie theaters; Buffalo-based writer Fran Striker, who fleshed out the characters and story lines for a few dollars per script; and WXYZ’s drama director, James Jewell, who, like several others involved in the show’s beginnings, went to his grave feeling he was robbed of proper credit.
To accommodate different time zones, each half-hour Lone Ranger episode was performed live three times. Although Beemer’s voice is the one most closely associated with the show, he actually was just one of several radio Rangers. A dapper little actor named Jack Deeds played the title role in unconvincing fashion for the first six episodes. When Deeds arrived at the station drunk one evening, he was fired on the spot by Jewell, who took over for that night’s broadcast.

There is a woman who works locally at a library whose mother took her on a trolley car to voice whatever children were on the show.  She still attends conferences on radio shows personalities. A dying breed I am sure.

For more about THE LONE RANGER in Detroit, click here

Have you ever listened to one of these radio shows?Or any radio show? I have not.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Forgotten Movies: THE ICE STORM

I doubt there are many movies more cynical than Ang Lee's film of Rick Moody's book, THE ICE STORM. I rewatched this last week, having forgotten just how misanthropic it was. Even the kids come off pretty badly (Ricci, Macquire, etc.),  Suburbia has never looked more desolate or dispiriting.
Can you think of a more cynical film? 

(For those who may have forgotten or never seen it): 

 In the 1970s, an outwardly wholesome family begins cracking at the seams over the course of a tumultuous Thanksgiving break. Frustrated with his job, the father, Ben (Kevin Kline), seeks fulfillment by cheating on his wife, Elena (Joan Allen), with neighborhood seductress Janey (Sigourney Weaver). Their teenage daughter, Wendy (Christina Ricci), dabbles in sexual affairs too -- with Janey's son Mikey (Elijah Wood). The family's strained relations continue to tauten until an ice storm strikes.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy


2. That the Ninth Circuit Court did the right thing. Perhaps it's the courts that will save us.

3. This thrills me every time. 

4. That it is possible to create a TV show about spirituality that is neither saccharine nor disrespectful. Just brilliant. Every episode made me cry--in a good way. And every character had times of grace notes and moments of frailty.

5.That it is possible to meet a couple late in life that feel like home. Arnold and Elaine Shifman.

Well, not happy in the traditional sense, but happy that his words and voice have been captured on this bracing film. Not easy to watch but watch we must.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Night Music

Friday's Forgotten Books, February 10, 2017

 Next week, forgotten novels about difficult children for those who dare.


 (from the archives, Ron Scheer)

Elmer Kelton, Texas Showdown

This book is actually two short novels by Elmer Kelton, first published in the 1960s and reissued under one title by Forge in 2007. Pecos Crossing, originally titled Horsehead Crossing (1963), appeared under Kelton’s own name, while Shotgun, originally titled Shotgun Settlement (1969), was published under a house pseudonym, Alex Hawk.
First off, Elmer Kelton is one of my top-10 favorite western writers. He wrote with a strong sense of history and an informed awareness of the West Texas terrain, its flora and fauna, and its weather. I find it easy to believe in his characters. They are not just convenient types but possess an emotional depth that makes them three-dimensional.

I would say he achieves this by conceiving of them as ordinary people who get themselves into all-too-human predicaments that force them into making choices. And these in turn drive a plot that is both inevitable and often unpredictable. As in his novel Other Men’s Horses (reviewed here a while ago), his central characters are fundamentally decent people up against dangerously determined men ready to lie, thieve, and kill.
His women are strong-willed and resourceful. Romance plays a role in both novels in this volume, as a young man falls in love with a girl who complicates matters as he follows his heart, though at the risk of losing his life.
Often, a pivotal character is a lawman who has learned how to wield authority with a firm but easy hand and has earned the respect of others by exercising a strong sense of fair play, even when upholding the law puts him on the unpopular side of a dispute.
One other thing. While there is a kill-or-be-killed element in Kelton’s fictional West, and men carry and use firearms, there is not an assumption that the reader is a gun enthusiast who needs to know the make, model, and caliber of every weapon that shows up in the narrative. It’s probably just me, but this habit of western writers today immediately draws attention to itself--like a fetish. For this reader, it comes across as too much information and disturbs rather than reinforces the illusion of a credible scene.
Pecos Crossing.  The central characters in this exciting yarn are two young cowboys who stop a stage to collect unpaid wages from one of the passengers. In the resulting confusion, a woman is accidentally shot dead. Her husband, a retired Ranger, then tracks down the boys to take revenge for her death.
Fleeing westward, the two come upon a young woman and her father, who is dying of TB. One of the cowboys, Johnny Fristo, wants to help them. His partner, who is chiefly responsible for the trouble the two are in, disagrees. Fristo, with a stronger sense of decency, prevails, though they lose time and the Ranger eventually catches up with them at a crossing on the otherwise treacherous Pecos River.
Like Other Men’s Horses, the story unfolds as a series of adventures encountered while traveling across a rough and mostly unsettled frontier.
Shotgun. The characters in this novel are drawn from the more usual stock of recognizable types that appear in westerns: the big ranch owner, his sons, a problematic neighboring rancher, his daughter, and a cunningly vicious villain who wants both men’s ranches.
Blair Bishop is the cattleman who, over a lifetime, has acquired a vast acreage. At the novel’s start, his main problem is a long drought that is drying up the water supply for his herds and leaving them with little grass to feed on. There has been an invasion of the thirsty cattle of his neighbor, Clarence Cass, and they are being driven back where they came from.
Relations between the two ranchers are further complicated by the fact that Bishop’s son, Allan, and Cass’s daughter, Jessie, make no secret of having fallen in love and intend to run off together if Bishop doesn’t give them his blessing.
Enter the villain of the story, Macy Modock, with a ten-year grievance against Bishop, who once had him sent to the pen for some wrongdoing. Having served his time, Modock hires a gunman and a shady lawyer to put the squeeze on Bishop by claiming legal ownership of parts of his ranch. Strengthening his hand, Modock lures Cass into his scheme.
In a long and suspenseful conclusion, Jessie is holed up in a barn, bravely exchanging shots with Modock, while Allan lies unconscious beside her. Like the young women in Pecos Crossing and Other Men’s Horses, she is a credit to her gender.

Sergio Angelini, WOMAN ON THE ROOF, Helen Nielsen
Yvette Banek, FEATHERBRAINED, Bob Tarte
Joe Barone, THE ZIG ZAG GIRL, Elly Griffiths
Brian Busby, BEHIND THE BEYOND, Stephen Leacock
Bill Crider, CODE SEVEN, Lou Cameron
Curt Evans, ANONYMOUS FOOTSTEPS, John N. O'Connor
Richard Horton, STORY TELLER, Maude Lindsay
Jerry House, THE WIZARD OF VENUS AND PIRATE BLOOD, Edgar Rice Burroughs
George Kelley, INTERGALACTIC EMPIRES, edited by Asimov, Greenberg and Waugh
Margot Kinberg, IN THE WOODS, Tana French
B.V. Lawson, RISING OF THE MOON, Gladys Mitchell
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, THE PAINTED GUN, Bradley Spinelli
Todd Mason, THE EUREKA YEARS: Boucher and McComas's MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION 1949-1954, edited by Annette Peltz McComa
J.F. Norris, DANGER NEXT DOOR, Q. Patrick
Neer, A MAN LAY DEAD, Ngaio Marsh
Matthew Paust, GIVE US A KISS, Daniel Woodrell and the Stories of Breece D.J. Pancake
James Reasoner, SIXGUN DUO, Ernest Haycox
Gerard Saylor, CLEAR BY FIRE, Joshua Hood
Kerrie Smith, THE MOVING FINGER, Agatha Christie 
Kevin Tipple, A DYING FALL, Elly Griffiths
TomCat, BEHOLD A FAIR WOMAN, Francis Duncan 
TracyK, STRONG POISON, Dorothy L. Sayers 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Why I Don't Think La La Land Deserves to be Best Picture

1. For a supposed musical, there are too few memorable songs. In fact, they seem to play the same two songs over and over and over again.

2. There is really only one big production number and we get that in the first scene. And its total abandon and joy is never repeated.

3. The movie is underpopulated. Some friends appear in the beginning and are seldom heard from again. All great musicals have friends, family, someone. This basically has three characters and one is detested.

4. The dancing and singing rarely rises above adequate.

5. So much of it is a generic Hollywood story. In fact, all of it is.

6. I could really never make sense of exactly what sort of jazz Seb was referring to. When he plays his own song, it is like jazz light if jazz at all.

7. Although they are both pleasant leads, neither does anything worthy of Oscar consideration if you compare it to Isabelle Huppert for instance. Actually I would place Gosling in fifth place in the Leading Actor category. And I am a Gosling fan.

8. We never get any sense what Mia's one-woman show is about and her story about her aunt that leads to fame and fortune is indistinct at best.

9. Same with Seb. He never once really shows us the jazz he wants to play.

10. Their romance seems similar to one in high school. There is no heat between them. Just a sort of middling affection.

I have no objection to a light-hearted film winning Best Picture but it has to be meritorious in some way and I didn't see any real strength here.  It is the epitome of a pleasant two hours.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Tuesday Night Music

My Favorite MTM episode


By the sixth season, you would have thought the writers had run through just about all they could do with the characters. But this episode allows every character to shine for a minute. And Lou and Mary get to show their talent and the deep character development the show has allowed them.

Lou drinks too much and spends the night with Sue Ann, leaving a sock behind. Mary thinks it's so funny (and boy, does she nail the snickering and snorting) that she can't resist telling Murray despite her promise not to. Lou says they will never be friends again and here she gets to show off her ability to cry. She also gets to find a clever way out of their standoff. There is not a wasted line or emotion in this episode. Ted is funny in not being able to figure out whose sock Sue Ann had. Sue Ann nails her most seductive self and Murray is the clueless Murray, never realizing his betrayal is the real one.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

1. We had four days of sun in a row after only two days of sun in January. The Great Lakes area is so cloudy from November to April, you must have a light screen to get through it.

2. That my book group selection this month is a wonderful novel about Cuba called THE DISTANT MARVEL (Acevedo). It's a novel about the gift of story-telling for people enduring hard times. I am always resistant to whatever book is chosen--even my own choices. So when I like one,it's a gift.

3. That the Hilberry Theater, the graduate theater at WSU, put on a wonderful production of NEXT TO NORMAL. It's the second time we've seen this rather strange semi-musical about mental illness.

4 Our FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY book sale on Saturday was a huge success. So wonderful to see people loading up on books for themselves and their kids. And best of all are the teachers there buying books for their classroom. One buyer gave me an extra $35.00 for the library.

5. Hearing a lot of the protest songs of the 1960s getting sung again. Sorry there's a need for it but glad to hear the old tunes. 

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Friday, February 03, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, February 3 2017

  From Charlie Stella's blog
Cemetery Road by Gar A. Haywood … Although originally published in 2009, Cemetery Road and its author turn out to be one of my best finds in 2016. Character introspection isn’t something I usually favor, but when it’s done with grace and sophistication, it is wonderful.
The protagonist and narrator, Errol “Handy” White, tells a tale of guilt and the tragic consequence of best intentions. As a young man, Handy ran with two best friends, R.J. Burrow and O'Neal Holden (a.k.a. O). As young men will sometimes do, they engaged in petty thefts that were as harmless as they were dumb. When a young girl, Olivia, takes one of those regrettable first hits of cocaine, the kind that kill, an act of vengeance via theft becomes a bloodbath of far-reaching proportions. Handy’s brother Chancellor was in love with Olivia, but it was Handy who took her death to heart and felt the person responsible for the cocaine, Excel Rucker, should have to pay. Handy puts a plan of fairly simple vengeance into play, but the unintended consequences affect more lives than Handy or his two best friends could ever have imagined.
In the years that have passed, Handy’s background includes a move to Minneapolis and a marriage that bears a daughter, neither of which event has worked out all that well. The author does a wonderful job of teasing the reader while peeling the onion a layer at a time. Handy has issues with his daughter, who has fallen victim to substance abuse and has a burning desire to know who her mother was and where she might be. Handy also has a trip to make, which after a prologue, starts with a return to L.A. for the funeral of one of his two best friends. J.R. was murdered, but over what is the question. J.R. also had a daughter and wife, and although his murder has thus far been deemed a drug incident, J.R.’s wife refuses to accept the assumptions. J.R.’s daughter is a reporter who also has questions, so when Handy shows up and is also unconvinced about the effort the police are making to find his friend’s killer, he does some investigating of his own.
Nobody likes politicians, and throughout the novel, we’re not quite sure about O’Neal and/or his role in anything that has happened. He’s become a local mayor with more than old friendships to concern himself with, never mind the cause of one of their deaths. It all has to do with the plan of vengeance Handy proposed to his two friends back in the day. Has it come back to haunt them?  No spoilers here, but the trip the author masterfully takes us on is compelling. Just as Handy’s background issues with his daughter and her mother, the act of vengeance is similarly revealed in stages that will keep readers glued to the page. Handling guilt and searching for some measure of redemption are powerful emotional trips to engage. Haywood takes us on such a trip through his wonderfully articulate and soul searching protagonist, Handy White, but perhaps the genius behind this novel for me was the empathy I felt for Handy’s hot-headed friend, J.R. The ghost of guilt that haunted his entire life was ever present, and it lent all the credibility necessary to understand Handy’s seemingly suicidal quest for redemption.
Cemetery Road is smart, sophisticated writing. The collection of starred industry reviews and high praise from newspapers were well deserved back in 2009. Trust me, this baby has staying power. I don’t keep every crime novel I read on the shelves in my writing room at Casa Stella, but this one will take its place on the top shelf along with some of my other favorites.

Sergio Angelini, DEATH IN THE CLOUDS, Agatha Christie
Mark Baker, CAT KILLER, Sandy Dengler
Yvette Banek, ANY TWO CAN PLAY, Elizabeth Cadell
Joe  Barone, DEARLY BELOVED, Jane Haddam
Les Blatt, NIPPED IN THE BUD, Stuart Palmer
Bill Crider, BENEATH A PANAMANIAN MOON, David Terrenoire
Martin Edwards, THE SIXTEENTH STAR, E.C.R. Lorac
Curt Evans, THE RUMBLE MURDERS, Mason Deal
Richard Horton, Threshold of Eternity, by John Brunner/The War of Two Worlds, by Poul Anderson
Jerry House. THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET, Lester Del Rey
George Kelley, Batman in The Brave & The Bold: The Bronze Age Omnibus Volume 1
Margot Kinberg, MURDER IN BOLLYWOOD, Shadaab Amjad Khan
B.V, Lawson, VOICE OUT OF DARKNESS, Ursula Curtiss
Steve Lewis, LITTLE MISS MURDER, Michael Avallone
Todd Mason, BETTER THAN ONE by Kate Wilhelm and Damon Knight; BLACK COCKTAIL by Jonathan Carroll
J.F. Norris, THE SCREAMING PORTRAIT, Ferrin Fraser
James Reasoner, DEVIL'S BUTTE, Ray Hogan
Richard Robinson, THE XIBALBA MURDERS, Lyn Hamilton
Gerard Saylor, REVOLVER, Duane, Swierczynski 
Kevin Tipple, Barry Ergang, THE CRAZY MIXED-UP CORPSE, Michael Avallone
TomCat, THE CRIME COAST, ELizabeth Gill
TracyK, FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, Raymond Chandler 
Prashant Trikannad, THE DICTATOR, Pablo Neruda
Westlake Review, FLASHFIRE, Richard Stark

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

First Wednesdayy Book Review: TRUE GRIT

I read Charles Portis" TRUE GRIT between the two movie versions. Some people prefer one film to the other but the source material is so strong, I loved them both. And Portis has written several other first rate novels as I am sure regular readers of this blog know. 
When I saw a copy at a flea market for $.25 I decided the time had come. I grabbed the book and read it in a matter of hours. The voice of its protagonist, Mattie Ross, was just that compelling. When a writer can create a voice that you can't turn away from, that is magic. The story was simple but told well. It stuck doggedly, as doggedly as Mattie, to Mattie's quest for justice with very few segues.

Mattie Ross is a straight-talking girl from Arkansas who's just lost her father to a deceitful farmhand. Justice for this murder will only be achieved if Mattie can capture Chaney herself.

Chaney, the murderer, is "trash" hired by Mattie's father out of pity. The two men go to Fort Smith to buy horses, and Mr. Ross ends up dead after being robbed by Chaney.

Mattie hires Rooster Cogburn, the toughest deputy she can find, insisting on accompanying him despite repeated attempts to throw her off the trail. He is a one-eyed, trigger-happy drunk but with a lot of the "grit" the impresses a young girl.

Joined by a Texas Ranger, named La Boeuf, chasing Chaney for another crime. the three run down Chaney, now part of the Ned Pepper gang, and win themselves justice though at some cost. The book ends as Mattie, a spinster, tells us about the final days of each of the three posse members.

The book is framed by the conceit of an old woman telling a story from her youth. We see what happens through her eyes, the eyes of a young girl. You can't help falling in love with Cogburn and Mattie by the end of the book. True Grit applies to both of them equally. This is surely a classic American story. I wonder if it's on school reading lists.

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy's blog right here.